Trump impeachment hearings: 4 takeaways from Day 3 of public testimony by Christopher Wilson Senior WriterYahoo News• Lieutenant Colonel Vindman: ‘This is America … Here, right matters’ The first impeachment hearings of the week brought more bad news for the White House, as two officials who listened directly to a call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine testified they found it unusual, while a witness called by Republicans defended the honor of former Vice President Joe Biden and said calling for an investigation into him was “unacceptable.” But there were elements in Tuesday’s testimony that offered some support to the narrative favored by House Republicans.Here are the key moments from today’s testimony.Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence; Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine; Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman; and Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council. (Yahoo News photo illustration; photos: AP, Getty Images)An “unusual” and “improper” call Jennifer Williams was a staffer for the 2004 George W. Bush campaign before moving into a nonpolitical foreign service position and now serves as a national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence. She listened to the call this summer between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that led to the whistleblower report that initiated the formal impeachment hearings.“I found the July 25 phone call unusual because, in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter,” said Williams, who described Trump’s request to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter “inappropriate.”Williams added that she did not know why aid was being withheld from Ukraine, only that the Office of Management and Budget was doing so at the request of acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney despite pushback from officials at the Departments of State and Defense. When asked if anyone in the national security community supported withholding aid, Williams said no. Previous witnesses have testified that Trump was withholding the nearly $400 million in military assistance as well as a visit to the White House sought by Zelensky to coerce the Ukrainians into investigating the Bidens. Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)Both Williams and Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council staffer who was called as a witness by Republicans to testify in the afternoon session, said that during a Sept. 1 meeting the first thing Zelensky asked Pence about was the status of the military aid. Williams also did not know the reason why Pence’s trip to attend Zelensky’s inauguration was canceled. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer assigned to the White House, also listened to the call and said, “It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent.”“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” said Vindman when asked about his first thoughts of Trump raising a potential investigation into Biden. “It was probably an element of shock, that maybe in certain regards, my worst fear of how our Ukraine policy could play out was playing out, and how this was likely to have significant implications for U.S. national security.”In response to a line of questioning about whether Trump’s request for a “favor” from Zelensky amounted to a demand, Vindman said that because of Ukraine’s dependence on the United States and Zelensky’s desire for the imprimatur of a White House meeting, he believed requests from the White House would come across as directives.“The culture I come from, the military culture, when a senior asks you to do something, even if it’s polite and pleasant, it’s not to be taken as a request, it’s to be taken as an order,” Vindman said. “In this case, the power disparity between the two leaders, my impression is that in order to get the White House meeting, President Zelensky would have to deliver these investigations.”Later, under questioning by Republican members, Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, former senior director for European affairs on the National Security Council, said they didn’t believe Trump was making a “demand” of Zelensky. When pressed by Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., Morrison did not specify why he went to an NSC counsel following the July 25 call, saying only that he wanted them to know that the call had occurred.Both Williams and Vindman said they were unaware of any evidence that suggested misconduct by Biden in Ukraine. Williams was not allowed to testify on a Sept. 18 call between Trump and Zelensky, the contents of which are still classified.A Trump appointee defends BidenKurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, testifies on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Alex Brandon/Pool/Reuters)The afternoon session included Volker, who was appointed by Trump outside normal State Department channels and served without salary. In his opening statement, Volker revised testimony he gave last month in a private deposition, explaining that “I have learned many things that I did not know at the time of the events in question.” Volker initially testified that during a July 10 meeting there was no discussion about Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine or anything about the investigation into Biden. In his amended testimony on Tuesday, Volker said that Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, “made a generic comment about investigations. I think all of us thought it was inappropriate.”Volker, who resigned his position in September, said that initially he didn’t see a call to investigate the Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma, on whose board Biden’s son Hunter served, as the same thing as demanding an investigation of the Bidens, but has since realized how closely they were entwined. Near the end of the hearing, Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., was nearly incredulous about Volker’s inability to connect the dots on what the investigation requests would mean to Ukraine, saying it would put the country’s officials in an “impossible position.”“In hindsight, I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company, Burisma, as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden,” said Volker. “I saw them as very different — the former being appropriate and unremarkable, the latter being unacceptable. In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections.”Volker praised Biden and said that he told Giuliani that the idea that Biden was corruptly trying to help his son’s business career — a key talking point for Republicans, including Trump — was “self-serving and not credible.”“At the one in-person meeting I had with Mayor Giuliani on July 19, Mayor Giuliani raised, and I rejected, the conspiracy theory that Vice President Biden would have been influenced in his duties as vice president by money paid to his son,” said Volker. “As I testified previously, I have known Vice President Biden for 24 years. He is an honorable man and I hold him in the highest regard.”Volker also expressed his dismay at military aid being withheld from Ukraine.“I opposed the hold on U.S. security assistance as soon as I learned about it on July 18, and thought we could turn it around before the Ukrainians ever knew or became alarmed about it,” Volker testified on Tuesday. “I did not know the reason for the hold, but I viewed it as a U.S. policy problem that we needed to fix internally, and I was confident we would do so.” “I will be fine for telling the truth”National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testifies before the House Intelligence Committee. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)Vindman, the Army officer whose family emigrated from the Soviet Union when he was a child and who earned a Purple Heart serving in Iraq, said that he felt it was his “duty” to come forward. During his opening statement, he directly addressed his father.“Dad, my sitting here today, in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family,” said Vinkman. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”Vindman was criticized by Republicans for not reporting his concerns with Trump’s Zelensky call to his superior, Morrison. There were also several lines of questioning that suggested Vindman might not have total loyalty to the United States, attacks that started when he testified in private last month. Vindman said that the Ukraine government tried to offer him the defense minister’s job, but he didn’t even consider it because “I’m an American.”He corrected the top Republican on the committee, Rep. David Nunes, who addressed a question to him as “Mr. Vindman,” reminding him that he was “Lt. Col. Vindman.” Later, another Republican, Rep. Chris Stewart, noted that Vindman was in his dress uniform, and asked if he always requested to be addressed by his military rank in civilian life. Vindman said he was seeking to defuse the attacks on his honesty and patriotism.During his testimony, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questioned whether Vindman was a leaker and cited a quote from Morrison in which he questioned Vindman’s judgment. Vindman responded by reading from his most recent performance review. The White House’s official Twitter account also published the same quote from Morrison.. According to a U.S. official, the military is prepared to move Vindman and his family to a base for their protection if he faces retaliation for his testimony.Trump also attacked Williams over the weekend, deriding her as a “Never Trumper.” On Tuesday she responded: „I’d call myself never partisan.”Defending “an outright fabrication”Rep. Devin Nunes questions Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)Nunes has spent most of his time during these hearings attacking Democrats, the media and the impeachment process itself, which he said were earning very low television ratings. On Tuesday, Nunes began his remarks by citing and defending the work of John Solomon, a former columnist at The Hill whose strident defense of Trump has been promoted by Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. The State Department has referred to Solomon’s reporting as “an out-right fabrication” while diplomat George Kent testified last week that his reporting was “if not entirely made up in full cloth, it was primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs.” Last year, The Hill moved Solomon’s work to the opinion section and in September the outlet and writer parted ways. This week, The Hill announced it would review the work of Solomon published during his tenure there.Nunes stated that Democrats called Volker and Morrison to testify publicly when he did so in a November 9 letter to Schiff and implied that because Trump was voted into office any checks by the legislative branch which would remove him from office would defy “half the country who voted for the President.” Trump received 46.1 percent of the popular vote in 2016, or about three million votes fewer than Hillary Clinton. He was elected with the support of roughly one-quarter of eligible voters.
Impeachment witnesses cast doubt on Trump’s motives for requesting Ukrainian investigations by Jon Ward Senior Political Correspondent•Schiff gives fiery closing on Day 3 of public hearings After nearly 12 hours of testimony, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff concluded Day 3 of public impeachment inquiry hearings with impassioned remarks. WASHINGTON — At the heart of the impeachment drama gripping the nation’s capital is the question of whether President Trump’s attempts to solicit Ukrainian investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden for his role in the firing a Kyiv prosecutor in 2016 and possible Ukrainian interference in to the 2016 U.S. presidential election were ethical. Both of those motives took major hits during Tuesday’s impeachment hearings, as witnesses dismissed them as conspiracy theories and irrelevant — at best — to U.S. interests.“The allegations against the [former] Vice President [Biden] are self-serving and not credible,” said Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine. “Raising 2016 elections, or Vice President Biden, or these things I consider to be conspiracy theories circulated by the Ukrainians … they’re not things we should be pursuing.”“I don’t think pursuing these things serves the national interest,” Volker said in open testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, which is conducting the impeachment inquiry.Volker testified that he did not consider himself to be engaged in pressuring Ukraine in a way that constituted bribery or extortion. But several other witnesses have told the committee that Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine, as well as the prospect for a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volydymyr Zelensky, in order to force Ukraine to announce investigations into Ukrainian interference and the Bidens.Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 19, 2019. (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)Republicans have argued that one reason Trump did not want to help Ukraine stemmed from his resentment of Ukrainians who he saw as having worked against him in the 2016 election, and not because he wanted them to investigate Biden for his own political gain in 2020.Another witness who appeared on Tuesday dismissed outright the idea that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.“This is a Russian narrative that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin has promoted,” said Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine expert at the White House in the National Security Council.That’s true. In 2017, Putin asserted that it was Ukraine, not his own country, that infiltrated. „As we all know, during the presidential campaign in the United States, the Ukrainian government adopted a unilateral position in favor of one candidate,” said Putin during a joint-press conference with Hungarian leader Viktor Orban.Trump has long raged against the idea that Russian interference in the 2016 election helped him in any way. But the U.S. intelligence community, a congressional investigation and the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller have all overwhelmingly concluded that the Russian government waged an organized effort to sow discord in the U.S. in 2016, and that their efforts were aimed at helping Trump.Vindman’s comment echoed the testimony of his former boss, Fiona Hill, who resigned from the NSC earlier this year and who is scheduled to testify before the committee on Thursday. “It is a fiction that the Ukrainian government was launching an effort to upend our election,” Hill told the Intelligence committee in a deposition on Oct. 14. „I’m extremely concerned that this is a rabbit hole that we’re all going to go down in between now and the 2020 election, and it will be to all of our detriment.”Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Nov. 15, 2019. (Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who testified last Friday in an open hearing, told Republicans who asked her about Ukraine meddling that they were barking up the wrong tree. “I would remind you again that our intelligence community has determined that those who interfered in the [U.S.] election were in Russia,” Yovanovitch said.Republicans often point to one news article in particular when talking about Ukrainian meddling in 2016. It’s a Jan. 11, 2017 investigation published in Politico by Ken Vogel and David Stern. Vogel was hired by the New York Times soon after that article. Stern is now a freelancer who works for The Washington Post.The Politico article highlighted a few isolated incidents in which leading Ukrainian officials criticized Trump. It also documented the efforts of a political consultant in the U.S. who was on contract with the Democratic National Committee meeting with top Ukrainian officials at their embassy in Washington “to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia.”The Democratic operative, Alexandra Chalupa, shared many of her findings with journalists, including with Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff. Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign because of scrutiny over his lobbying for pro-Russian Ukrainina oligarchs. He was sentenced to four years in prison earlier this year for bank and tax fraud related to his work in Ukraine.Last Friday, Yovanovitch testified that, despite the criticism described in the Politico article, she saw no evidence of „a plot by the Ukrainian government to work against President Trump.”“People are critical. That does not mean that someone or a government is undermining either a campaign or interfering in elections,” Yovanovitch said.In addition, Volker pointed out in his testimony Tuesday that “no one in the new team governing Ukraine had anything to do with anything that may have happened in 2016. They were making television shows at the time.” Indeed, Zelensky was a TV actor in Ukraine in 2016, starring in a popular show that ran from 2015 to 2019 and is available on Netflix, “Servant of the People.”—Brittany Shepherd contributed to this article.
How Not to Plot Secret Foreign Policy: On a Cellphone and WhatsApp by •Trump defends Giuliani, said to be under investigation Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor at the center of the impeachment investigation into the conduct of Ukraine policy, makes a living selling cybersecurity advice through his companies. President Donald Trump even named him the administration’s first informal “cybersecurity adviser.”But inside the National Security Council, officials expressed wonderment that Giuliani was running his “irregular channel” of Ukraine diplomacy over open cell lines and communications apps in Ukraine that the Russians have deeply penetrated.In his testimony to the House impeachment inquiry, Tim Morrison, who is leaving as the National Security Council’s head of Europe and Russia, recalled expressing astonishment to William B. Taylor Jr., who was sitting in as the chief U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, that the leaders of the “irregular channel” seemed to have little concern about revealing their conversations to Moscow.“He and I discussed a lack of, shall we say, OPSEC, that much of Rudy’s discussions were happening over an unclassified cellphone or, perhaps as bad, WhatsApp messages, and therefore you can only imagine who else knew about them,” Morrison testified. OPSEC is the government’s shorthand for operational security.He added: “I remember being focused on the fact that there were text messages, the fact that Rudy was having all of these phone calls over unclassified media,” he added. “And I found that to be highly problematic and indicative of someone who didn’t really understand how national security processes are run.”WhatsApp notes that its traffic is encrypted, meaning that even if it is intercepted in transit, it is of little use — which is why intelligence agencies, including the Russians, are working diligently to get inside phones to read the messages after they are deciphered.But far less challenging is figuring out the message of Giuliani’s partner, Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who held an open cellphone conversation with Trump from a restaurant in Ukraine, apparently loud enough for his table mates to overhear. And Trump’s own cellphone use has led U.S. intelligence officials to conclude that the Chinese — with whom he is negotiating a huge trade deal, among other sensitive topics — are doubtless privy to the president’s conversations.Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump But Ukraine is a particularly acute case. It is the country where the Russians have so deeply compromised the communications network that in 2014 they posted on the internet conversations between a top Obama administration diplomat, Victoria Nuland, and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time, Geoffrey R. Pyatt. Their intent was to portray the Americans — not entirely inaccurately — as trying to manage the ouster of a corrupt, pro-Russian president of Ukraine.The incident made Nuland, who left the State Department soon after Trump’s election, “Patient Zero” in the Russian information-warfare campaign against the United States, before Moscow’s interference in the U.S. presidential election.But it also served as a warning that if you go to Ukraine, stay off communications networks that Moscow wired.That advice would seem to apply especially to Giuliani, who speaks around the world on cybersecurity issues. Ukraine was the petri dish for President Vladimir Putin of Russia, the place where he practiced the art of trying to change vote counts, initiating information warfare and, in two celebrated incidents, turning out the lights in parts of the country.Giuliani, impeachment investigators were told, was Trump’s interlocutor with the new Ukrainian government about opening investigations into the president’s political opponents. The simultaneous suspension of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine, which some have testified was on Trump’s orders, fulfilled Moscow’s deepest wish at a moment of ground war in eastern Ukraine and a daily, grinding cyberwar in the capital.It remains unknown why the Russians have not made any of these conversations public, assuming they possess them. But inside the intelligence agencies, the motives of Russian intelligence officers is a subject of heated speculation.A former senior U.S. intelligence official speculated that one explanation is that Giuliani and Sondland were essentially doing the Russians’ work for them. Holding up military aid — for whatever reason — assists the Russian “gray war” in eastern Ukraine and sows doubts in Kyiv that the United States is wholly supportive of Ukraine, a fear that many State Department and National Security Council officials have expressed in testimony.But Giuliani also was stoking an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Putin has engaged in, suggesting that someone besides Russia — in this telling, Ukrainian hackers who now supposedly possess a server that once belonged to the Democratic National Committee — was responsible for the hacking that ran from 2015 to 2016.Trump raised this possibility in his July 25 phone call with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. It was not the first time he had cast doubt on Russia’s involvement: In a call to a New York Times reporter moments after meeting Putin for the first time in Hamburg, Germany, in 2017, Trump endorsed Putin’s view that Russia is so good at cyberoperations that it would have never been caught. “That makes sense, doesn’t it?” he asked.He expressed doubts again in 2018, in a news conference with Putin in Helsinki, Finland. That was only days after the Justice Department indicted a dozen Russian intelligence officers for their role in the hack; the administration will not say if it now believes that indictment was flawed because there is evidence that Ukranians were responsible.Whether or not he believes Ukraine was involved, Giuliani certainly understood the risks of talking on open lines, particularly in a country with an active cyberwar.As a former prosecutor, he knows what the United States and its adversaries can intercept. In more recent years, he has spoken around the world on cybersecurity challenges. And as the president’s lawyer, he was a clear target.Giuliani said in a phone interview Monday that nothing he talked about on the phone or in texts was classified. “All of my conversations, I can say uniformly, were on an unclassified basis,” he said.His findings about what happened in Ukraine were “generated from my own investigations” and had nothing to do with the U.S. government, he said, until he was asked to talk with Kurt D. Volker, then the special envoy for Ukraine, in a conversation that is now part of the impeachment investigation. Volker will testify in public Tuesday.Giuliani said that he never “conducted a shadow foreign policy, I conducted a defense of my client,” Trump. “The State Department apparatchiks are all upset that I intervened at all,” he said, adding that he was the victim of “wild accusations.”Sondland is almost as complex a case. While he is new to diplomacy, he is the owner of a boutique set of hotels and certainly is not unaware of cybersecurity threats because the hotel industry is a major target, as Marriott learned a year ago.But Sondland held a conversation with Trump last summer in a busy restaurant in Kyiv, surrounded by other U.S. officials. Testimony indicates Trump’s voice was loud enough for others at the table to hear.But in testimony released Monday night, David Holmes, a veteran Foreign Service officer who is posted to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, and who witnessed the phone call between the president and Sondland, suggested that the Russians heard it even if they were not out on the town that night.Asked if there was a risk of the Russians listening in, Holmes said, “I believe at least two of the three, if not all three of the mobile networks are owned by Russian companies, or have significant stakes in those.”“We generally assume that mobile communications in Ukraine are being monitored,” he said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.© 2019 The New York Times Company
By Maria Kiselyova and Natalia Zinets
MOSCOW/KIEV (Reuters) – Russia on Monday handed back three naval ships it captured last year to Ukraine, something Kiev wanted to happen before a four-way peace summit on eastern Ukraine next month in Paris.
The handover, confirmed by the two countries’ foreign ministries, occurred in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Russia seized the ships in the same area in November last year after opening fire on them and wounding several sailors. Moscow said the ships – two small Ukrainian armoured artillery vessels and a tug boat – had illegally entered its territorial waters. Kiev denied that.
Russia returned the sailors who had been on board the ships to Ukraine in September as part of a prisoner exchange deal.
Various Russian media outlets reported that the ships would be returned to Ukraine on Monday without their ammunition and documentation.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Moscow would respond harshly in future to what it called any similar maritime „provocations” near its borders.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the three captured ships were en route to the port of Odessa.
It said that their original voyage, which Russia had interpreted as a border violation, had been peaceful and legal and that Kiev planned to pursue a case against Russia over the matter at an international arbitration panel in the Netherlands.
Despite those and other continuing tensions, the handover is likely to be seen as a confidence-building measure ahead of the planned Ukraine summit however.
The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine will meet in Paris on Dec. 9 in an attempt to advance efforts for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the French presidency said on Friday.
More than 13,000 people have been killed in the more than five-year-old conflict in east Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia collapsed following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, which prompted Western sanctions. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy won a landslide election victory in April promising to end the conflict.
Oslo (AFP) – A Norwegian man freed by Moscow from an espionage jail term as part of a spy swap between Lithuania and Russia said on Tuesday he felt „deceived” by his country’s intelligence service.
Frode Berg, 64, a retired Norwegian border guard, was detained in Moscow in 2017 following a sting operation by Russia’s FSB security service and freed on Friday as part of an exchange reminiscent of the Cold War.
Prosecutors accused him of spying on the country’s nuclear submarines and a Russian court sentenced him to 14 years imprisonment in April.
„I was convicted of espionage but I’m not a spy,” Berg told a press conference in Oslo.
„Call me naive if you wish, but I have the feeling I was deceived by E-tjenesten,” he said, referring to Norway’s intelligence service.
Berg said at the request of an acquaintance, who he believed was linked to Norway’s secret services, he agreed to make a „delivery” in 2014 to an address in Moscow.
He said he acted as a courier four other times, without knowing what he was carrying.
Berg said he tried to stop delivering the letters twice but felt „pressured” by his acquaintance.
„I am disappointed and bitter about what happened,” he added.
Berg was freed on Friday as part of an agreement between Lithuania and Russia that resulted in him and two Lithuanians being released in exchange for two Russian spies being held in Vilnius.
Norwegian authorities have declined to comment on the possible links between Berg and the intelligence service.
A Catholic bishop in China is believed to be on the run from state security after refusing to bring his church under a government-sanctioned religious association.
Guo Xijin, 61, has fled the custody of state agents and has gone into hiding, reported Catholic Asia News, a website, and cannot be immediately reached for comment.
Mr Guo is part of a group of bishops that many religious and human rights experts feared would be persecuted after the Vatican inked a deal with Beijing last year on the ordaining bishops.
China has long insisted that it approve appointments, clashing with absolute papal authority to pick bishops. The agreement broke that standoff, and could help pave the way for formal diplomatic ties, but also stoked worries that the Chinese state would have too much power to regulate religion.
Since Communism took hold in China, there have been in practice two Catholic churches – one sanctioned by the government, and an underground one loyal to the Vatican, and it remains unclear what would happen to bishops who refused to fall in line with the government.
China’s officially atheist Communist Party – has engaged in a widespread crackdown on religion in the last few years. Authorities have banned Arab-style onion domes on mosques and other buildings – even if merely decorative.
The UN estimates more than a million Muslims have been detained in chilling “re-education” camps, where former detainees have told The Telegraph they were subject to physical torture, psychological intimidation and political indoctrination.
The government has shut down churches not sanctioned by the Party, detaining priests and members of various congregations. And houses of worship, including Buddhist temples, are now mandated to have pictures of Xi Jinping, the leader of the Party.
Chinese authorities claim that people have freedom of religion – provided that they worship in state-sanctioned temples, churches, and mosques. The government has said that all religious believers must “be subordinate to and serve the overall interests of the nation and the Chinese people,” making it explicit that they must also “support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.”
East Turkistan National Awakening Movement
- China is waging a massive security crackdown on the Uighur Muslim ethnic minority in detention camps and prisons in Xinjiang, western China. Many Uighurs call the region East Turkestan or East Turkistan.
- The US State Department estimated earlier this year that up to three million Uighurs might be imprisoned.
- Former detainees have spoken of torture and medical experiments in camps and prisons. China insists they are „free vocational training” or „re-education” camps.
- Researchers with the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM) activist group this week released maps showing the locations of 465 suspected prisons and detention camps in the region.
- At least 72 of these sites had not been previously reported, suggesting that China might be detaining more than 3 million people, ETNAM’s president told Business Insider.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Activists have released a map showing the suspected locations of nearly 500 prisons and camps that China is using to lock up the Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority in the country’s western Xinjiang region.
Researchers working with the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM) on Tuesday released a series of maps showing suspected labor camps, „re-education” camps, and prisons in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang is the Chinese name for the 656,000-square-mile territory. Many Uighurs in the region and beyond refer to the vast territory as East Turkestan (or Turkistan) to protest China’s actions in the region.
China has been waging an unprecedented, hi-tech security crackdown on the region since mid-2016, justifying the actions as being in the name of counterterrorism. Uighurs and Han Chinese — the dominant ethnic group in China — have engaged in violent clashes in the past, and many Uighurs around the world want independence for the Xinjiang region.
The crackdown includes installing spyware on Uighurs’ phones, forbidding them from communicating with people outside the region, and locking up at least 1 million people in detention camps and jails across the region.
Authorities reportedly send men to sleep with Uighur women whose husbands had been locked up.
European stocks push higher, bolstered by optimism over a U.S.-China trade deal by Barbara Kollmeyer•
EUROPE MARKETS European stock markets pushed higher on Tuesday—on the heels of another record day for Wall Street—with gains for banks and miners helping to lift the Stoxx Europe 600 index. The index (XX:SXXP) rose 0.
The index SXXP, -0.12% rose 0.6% to 408.41 after finishing flat at 405.99 on Monday. That close was 0.2% off a 52-week high of 406.90 reached on Nov. 12.
The German DAX DAX, +0.20% jumped 1% to 13341.67, the French CAC 40 PX1, -0.35% rose 0.4% to 5955.55 and the U.K. FTSE UKX, +0.22% climbed 0.9% to 7378.64. The pound GBPUSD, -0.0928% held on to gains from Monday stemming from polls that showed incumbent U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson gaining further ground over the Labour Party ahead of the Dec. 12 general election.
U.S. stock benchmarks squeezed out fresh all-time highs on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.36% pushing further past the 28,000 level. U.S. stock futures ES00, -0.22% were higher.
Investors are staying optimistic about global stocks amid hopes for more trade progress between China and the U.S., but there is a risk, said Pierre Veyret, technical analyst at ActivTrades, the brokerage, in a note to clients.
“Investors have already priced a trade deal in with many benchmarks around the world now hitting record prices and P/E [price to earnings] ratio levels. This could be a dangerous situation for bull traders if negotiations between Beijing and Washington slow down as many traders have already bought the rumor,” Veyret wrote.
On the data front, EU new-car registrations—a reflection of sales—rose 8.7% year on year to 1.18 million vehicles, the highest total for October since 2009, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said on Tuesday.
Shares of easyJet EZJ, +5.33% jumped 4.5% after the budget airline posted a fiscal-year profit drop, but also reported forward bookings for the first half of next year slightly ahead annually. EasyJet also said it plans to make all flights net-zero carbon, and announced plans to launch easyJet holidays in the U.K. before Christmas.
On the downside, shares of SES SESG, -23.33% tumbled 13% a day after Ajit Pai, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, said via Twitter he would back a public auction to get a swath of satellite spectrum into the hands of 5G mobile users. SES and other satellite companies were lobbying for a private auction.
‘I can’t afford that’: Woman in student loan limbo since 1997 decries a muddy system by Aarthi Swaminathan Finance Writer•Are student loans the next bubble to burst?Scroll back up to restore default view.
Annette Gunn, 51, who works at a nonprofit in New Jersey, told Yahoo Finance that she hasn’t deliberately paid a single dime on her $60,000 in student loans since graduating from Southern Wesleyan University in 1997.
Instead, she’s been in limbo — in the form of forbearance and deferments — due to various financial and bureaucratic issues over time. She now owes more than $100,000.
Gunn shared student loan and school records with Yahoo Finance to corroborate her claims. Her student loan servicer, Navient, declined to comment on her case, citing privacy.
Her story is a cautionary tale related to an increasingly problematic system.
‘There are many borrowers who are in forbearance’
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently called out student loan servicer Navient for allegedly pushing borrowers into forbearance instead of income-based repayment, adding billions of dollars in interest on top of their existing loans.
This practice is fairly common, Shanna Tallarico, a consumer lawyer with the New York Legal Assistance Group, told Yahoo Finance.
“From my experience, there are many borrowers who are in forbearance because they can’t afford the payments on their loans under standard repayment plan,” she said. “It doesn’t even seem that from what people told me that they were presented with these options.”
Tallarico stressed that “there are so many people I’ve helped over the years who have been in forbearance when they could have been in repayment on an income-based plan that’s sensitive to their income.”
Yahoo Finance reported on a 2010 memo from an executive at Sallie Mae, Navient’s former parent company, who stated: “Our battle cry remains ‘forbear them, forbear them, make them relinquish the ball,’ Said another way, we are very liberal with the use of forbearance once it is determined that a borrower cannot pay cash or utilize other entitlement programs.”
‘Their answer was defer, defer, defer’
Gunn’s situation is an extreme example of what can happen within the U.S. student loan system of forbearance and deferment.
“I wasn’t one of those that went to high school and went away to college,” Gunn told Yahoo Finance. “I graduated high school, went right to work in Manhattan, moved to South Carolina, got a job, and started climbing that corporate ladder. But back in the ‘90s, they said: ‘Well, you can’t really go any further without a degree.’ So I said okay, let me go enroll in school… I liked the program because it was an adult program.”
It wasn’t a full-time course that she enrolled into: It was one night a week for four hours, and a study group a week, for four years, which counted towards a bachelor’s degree. Gunn said she received a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration.
When she graduated, the amount of loans she had taken out was around $60,000, Gunn estimated. And since she had just graduated, she said she was only making $20,000 a year, which led her to decide to go on deferment.
“And then I got the bill in the mail — I’m like oh my gosh this is like so much money to pay,” she recounted. “So I went on deferment again.”
Over the years, she has been in contact with Navient, she added, trying to fix the situation.
“And anytime I want to know what can you do to help me make these payments… [they say] I will just put you on deferment,” she said. “Then when the deferment ran out, and I called and asked, ‘OK what can I do to get these payments, and I cannot afford $400 a month.’ She’s like, ‘Oh well you don’t have any deferment left but you can put you on forbearance.’”
The process repeated itself every few years “because every time I called to try to get help, making payment, their answer was, we’ll just put you on deferment or forbearance,” she said.
‘I’m kind of like between a rock and a hard place’
When asked why she didn’t go into an income-based repayment plan, Gunn said that she simply couldn’t afford it. Since she works at a nonprofit now, she thought she’d be able to qualify for public service loan forgiveness (PSLF), but they asked her to first get on an income-based repayment plan.
For a borrower to get on an income-driven plan, they first need to apply through the education department, which requires some documents to verify their income. Their income needs to be validated annually. It became broadly available in 2009. But Gunn said that it wasn’t presented as a feasible option.
“I graduated a long time ago. I didn’t know that the interest keeps accruing and compounds daily. It would have been nice to have been filled in on that aspect…. Nobody told me what the issues are. Their answer was defer, defer, defer,” she said.
If she goes on the plan now, the monthly repayment amount is likely to be high — more than $500.
“I can’t afford that,” Gunn said. “My husband’s retired. I am the sole breadwinner. … I live in New York. … I pay a lot of taxes. … I don’t know where I’m getting an extra $600.”
She added: “I’m kind of like between a rock and a hard place. I can’t afford to pay that. But I know I have to pay it back, but I don’t know what to do. I just don’t have the answer… I keep praying I’m going to win the lottery but that does not seem to be happening.”
Gunn noted that she wasn’t just responsible for the principal, but all the interest as well.
“I feel like I feel like it’s unfair that I’m paying double what it cost me to go to school because of interest, because I wasn’t informed,” she said. “I know stupidity is not a defense, I get that. I should have paid more attention. You know what I mean. And I just think it’s absurd…. It makes zero sense… It sucks. It just really sucks.”
‘We can’t negotiate with you’
In response to this story, Navient’s Paul Hartwick told Yahoo Finance that they weren’t able to discuss specific borrower information, though the company did acknowledge how burdensome the system had become.
“Navient supports the investment students make in college by helping them navigate an overly complex federal program created by Congress,” Hartwick told Yahoo Finance. “And despite a maze of obstacles for borrowers, we have led the way with increased enrollment in affordable payment plans and helped millions of Americans pay off their loans. We encourage borrowers who have financial challenges to respond to our outreach or contact us to learn about repayment options.”
Unfortunately, Gunn’s story is not unique. Former FSA COO Wayne Johnson, who recently resigned from the Department of Education, recounted an episode where a man had flown in from Utah to meet with him.
“So I said, tell me your story,” Johnson told the man.
The man told Johnson that both he and his wife consolidated their student loans — $40,000 worth — “a number of years ago,” but with forbearance and deferments, “this is now at $120,000.”
According to Johnson, the man added: “I just don’t think it’s fair that I should pay $120,000.”
But Johnson noted that because the man had been going through cycles of deferments forbearances, “he had never been in delinquency and never been in default in our system.”
“So the answer is: We can’t negotiate with you,” Johnson said, referring to the Department of Education. “The only way you can negotiate with somebody is if they are in a default situation.”
Tallarico, the consumer lawyer, lamented that situations like these could theoretically be avoided.
“It’s just sad because you know that people could have been in repayment and they’re not,” she said. “They say … ‘I couldn’t afford my payments and they put me in forbearance.’ And I said, ‘Well you know you could have had like zero … dollar month payments and still been in repayment.’”
Aarthi is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.
Syracuse University has announced a $50,000 reward for information about the recent spate of at least 10 racist incidents on campus, including the Saturday night harassment of a black student by members of a fraternity who allegedly yelled the n-word at her as she waited for a bus.
“This report of an affront to our student’s—and our whole community’s—safety and well-being is the latest incident of several against Jews, Asians and African Americans,” Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a letter to students and staff on Sunday. “I am deeply angered by these events, including this latest incident.”
The racist incidents have also included a swastika, anti-Asian slurs, and the n-word found in residence halls and a physics building. Officials are also probing an incident where a student loudly yelled a racial slur against African-Americans, as well as another report of a racial epithet being used against a Chinese freshman.
Syverud apologized last week for the school’s slow response to some of the xenophobic graffiti—which first surfaced on Nov. 7—despite “personalized and immediate care” provided to residents who were “directly impacted” by the incident. Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered state agencies to investigate hate speech on the school’s campus.
The new $50,000 reward came from a “generous” donor and will be given “for evidence that leads to the apprehension of the individual or individuals responsible for these heinous acts,” said Syverud. Otherwise, anyone with relevant information about the spate of incidents has been asked to contact the university’s Department of Public Safety.
Since Saturday evening, DPS Chief Bobby Maldonado has “assembled substantial evidence, including security camera video, eyewitness accounts and interviews” about Saturday’s incident in coordination with the Syracuse Police Department, said Syverud. The perpetrators—who were reportedly identified as members of Alpha Chi Rho—will be held “appropriately accountable” to both the student code of conduct and the law, the chancellor added.
“We are disgusted by the language and harassing behavior alleged of a handful of our members and guests of our chapter at Syracuse University,” Alpha Chi Rho’s national office told The New York Times in a statement. “The fraternity is working with the university to investigate and if confirmed will hold any members accountable.”
The fraternity was suspended. Early Sunday morning, Syverud also directed the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs to suspend all social activities of fraternities on this campus for the remainder of the semester.
“While only one fraternity may have been involved in this particular incident, given recent history, all fraternities must come together with the university community to reflect upon how to prevent recurrence of such seriously troubling behavior,” he said.
Meanwhile, the university’s interfraternity council said its chapters would soon begin attending diversity training.
“There is no place for intolerance on our campus, and we will work with all proper authorities to ensure that this never happens again,” a statement to the Times said. “We extend our deepest condolences to those hurt by these intolerable actions, and we stand ready to support them however we can.”
Maldonado said the DPS has also added several measures on campus to improve student safety, including two new shuttles and increased officer presence.
“All students on this campus should feel welcomed, valued, and respected. Some of you do not feel that way now and some of you have not felt that way in the past, and this must change,” said Dean of Students Marianne Thompson on Sunday night.
Unfortunately, the spate of incidents this year are not new.
Fifteen students from the Theta Tau fraternity at Syracuse were suspended last year after a six-minute video showcased them expressing sentiments that were “racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist and hostile to people with disabilities,” according to a statement from Syverud at the time. The footage included a pledge “to always have hatred in my heart” for Jews, African-Americans, and Hispanics and used xenophobic slurs throughout.
“This kind of outraged everyone, because we have had incidents like Theta Tau happen before and nothing has happened since—no real change,” Avani Singh, a 19-year-old sophomore at the university, told the Times.
A movement led by black students, called #NotAgainSU, has risen in response to the incidents. They organized a boycott of Syracuse basketball games. Since last Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., dozens of students have staged a sit-in inside the university’s Barnes Center at the Arch—a brand-new $50-million recreational complex—while holding signs that read “Black Safety Matters.” The demonstrators vow to not end the demonstration until their demands—including the expulsion of students involved in what they’ve called the “November Hate Crimes”—are met.
“NotAgainSU is a Black student-led movement that believes transparency from Syracuse University’s administration is necessary. The safety of students on this campus—specifically the safety of underrepresented and underserved students—is paramount,” the group said Monday in a press release. “#NotAgainSU stands in solidarity with all groups and communities that identify with and for the movement.”
“I am a part of this movement because I believe in justice and I strongly believe that no person regardless of race, religion, creed, belief, or sexuality should feel unsafe on a campus that promises them safety and education,” a freshman said, according to the #NotAgainSU Instagram.
Another said: “I joined this movement because I feel like our voices finally need to be heard. I feel like changes need to be made here. All communities of color need to be represented here and we need to feel like we are loved and supported by our school. It’s time for change. It’s time for us to be heard.”
Local politicians including Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, State Senator Rachel May, and Assemblyman William B. Magnarelli have all reportedly visited the protesters to show their support.
Key point: A sea-based nuclear strike capability is vital for a second strike.
The United Kingdom maintains a fleet of four ballistic missile submarines with the ability to devastate even the largest of countries. This fleet came into being after its ally, the United States, canceled a key weapon system that would have been the cornerstone of London’s nuclear arsenal. Fifty years later, the UK’s missile submarine force is the sole custodian of the country’s nuclear weapons, providing a constant deterrent against nuclear attack.
The United Kingdom’s nuclear force in the early 1960s relied upon the so-called “V-Force” strategic bombers: the Avro Vulcan, Handley Page Victor and Vickers Valiant. The bombers were set to be equipped with the Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile, which could penetrate Soviet defenses at speeds of up to Mach 12.4 (9,500 miles an hour). Unfortunately technical problems plagued Skybolt, and the U.S. government canceled the missile in 1962.
Skybolt’s cancellation threatened to undo the UK’s entire nuclear deterrent, and the two countries raced to come up with a solution. The United States agreed to offer the new Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile to replace Skybolt. The United Kingdom had no missile submarines to carry Polaris—it would have to build them.
A study by the Ministry of Defense concluded that, like France, the UK would need at least five ballistic missile submarines to maintain a credible deterrent posture. This number would later be reduced to four submarines. Like the French Le Redoutable class, the submarines would bear a strong resemblance to the U.S. Navy’s Lafayette-class ballistic missile submarines, with two rows of eight missiles tubes each behind the sail. Unlike Lafayette and Le Redoutable, the new submarines of the Royal Navy’s Resolution-class would have their hydroplanes on the bow, with the ability to fold up when parked along a pier.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The U.S. defense chief on Tuesday urged governments affected by China’s sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea “to take a very public posture” and assert their sovereign rights, adding that acting collectively is the best way to send a message “to get China on the right path.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper raised concerns over China’s increasingly assertive actions in the disputed waters in a news conference after meeting his Philippine counterpart, Delfin Lorenzana, in Manila, his latest stop in an Asian tour.
The disputes have long been a major point of contention between Washington and Beijing, whose vast territorial claims in the strategic waterway overlap with five other governments, including the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally.
Washington lays no claims to the busy waters but has declared that freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of the disputes are in the U.S. national interest. China has repeatedly warned the U.S. to stay out of what it calls a purely Asian dispute.
In an Asian defense meeting that he attended in Thailand, Esper said most participants were “very concerned about China’s excessive claims” and its lack of compliance with international laws and norms. The meetings were led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Four members of the 10-nation bloc have been embroiled in the territorial rifts along with China and Taiwan.
Tensions have escalated in recent years after China built missile-protected islands on seven disputed reefs, three of which have military-grade runways. There have been reports that China has used one of its new island bases to resupply ships that have been accused by rival claimants like Vietnam and Malaysia of encroaching into their waters in recent months.
„I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to take a very public posture and to assert our sovereign rights and to emphasize the importance of law,” Esper told reporters in Manila.
U.S. forces have conducted more freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea in the past year than in previous years to highlight the importance of adherence to international law, Esper said, referring to sail-bys by U.S. Navy ships close to China-claimed islands that have infuriated Beijing.
Key point: Washington is taking key steps to show Tehran that it would respond to any further attack on Riyadh.
In response to the September 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced plans to deploy additional personnel and air and missile defense assets to the Middle East – including one Patriot battery, four Sentinel radars, and 200 support personnel. This deployment represents the latest American effort to deter Iranian aggression and highlights the growing and evolving air and missile threat to the United States and its partners.
At a September 20 press conference, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford said that Riyadh had requested U.S. assistance following the September 14 attack. “The Iranian regime is waging a deliberate campaign to destabilize the Middle East and impose costs on the international economy,” Esper said.
The attack, Esper continued, carried Tehran’s fingerprints. “It is clear,” he said, “that the weapons used in the attack were Iranian-produced and not launched from Yemen.” Three weeks ago, despite disagreements regarding the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany joined the U.S. in blaming Tehran for the attack.
The Patriot is one of the most effective and combat-experienced point defense systems for countering ballistic missiles, yet its radar system covers only a limited scope. The Patriot has been in the U.S. inventory for decades but is currently undergoing a major modernization that includes a variety of command, control, and radar improvements. As of August, the Army had upgraded nine of its 15 Patriot battalions.
Key point: Russia has long-wanted this kind of a powerful stealth drone.
The Russian air force’s first stealth fighter has flown in close formation with its first armed, stealth drone, possibly indicating that the two types might fly and fight together in the future.
The Okhotnik unmanned aerial vehicle made its first joint flight with an Su-57 manned fighter, the Russian defense ministry announced on Sept. 27, 2019.
The ministry released a video of the flight, which reportedly took place over a military test base and lasted 30 minutes.
“During the flight, the UAV interacted with the Su-57 to test extending the fighter’s radar and target designation range for long-range air-launched weapons outside enemy air-defense coverage,” Jane’s reported, citing the Kremlin.
The test flight implies that the Russian air force intends to operate the Okhotnik and the Su-57 in mixed formations. “This seems to be the global trend,” commented Samuel Bendett, an independent expert on the Russian military.
Bendett is a researcher for the Center for Naval Analyses and the American Foreign Policy Council.
He pointed to the U.S. military’s own program to develop a “wingman” drone that possesses the ranger, performance and weapons-capability to fly into combat with manned fighters. China, Japan and Australia also are developing wingman drones.
“At the same time, Ohotnik may be a long-range air-defense penetrator, in which case it would need to fly ‘solo’ in an automated mode, in order not to utilize Russian manned assets,” Bendett told The National Interest.
There’s no reason Okhotnik could not perform both roles. The XQ-58 that the U.S. Air Force is developing for the Americans’ own wingman-drone program can be controlled by a pilot in a nearby manned aircraft or by an operator at a facility on the ground.
Key Problem: China’s aircraft industry remains reliant on foreign-sourced components for dependable, proven, high-performance aircraft engines.
China is developing not one but two new stealth bombers, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency claimed in a January 2019 report.
While the People’s Liberation Army has not been shy about discussing the H-20 strategic bomber that the Xian Aircraft Industrial Corporation is developing for the PLA Air Force, there are many fewer public references to the other stealth bomber, which apparently carries the designation JH-XX.
If the report is accurate and China completes development of the JH-XX, the Chinese air force could become the first air arm in the world to deploy a radar-evading fighter-bomber whose main mission is long-range ground-attack.
Other stealth fighter types, including the U.S. military’s F-22 and F-35, the Russian air force’s Su-57 and the PLAAF’s J-20 and J-31 either primarily are air-to-air fighters or combine air-combat capability with the ability to strike ground targets.
Beijing’s goal of eventually forcing Taiwan to unify with China has driven the new bombers’ development. „Beijing’s anticipation that foreign forces would intervene in a Taiwan scenario led the PLA to develop a range of systems to deter and deny foreign regional force projection,” the DIA reported.
The Pentagon’s air base at Guam, a key staging area for U.S. warplanes operating over the Western Pacific, is a major potential target of China’s new bombers.
„The PLAAF is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to strike regional and global targets,” the DIA continued in its report. „Stealth technology continues to play a key role in the development of these new bombers, which probably will reach initial operational capability no sooner than 2025.
„These new bombers will have additional capabilities, with full-spectrum upgrades compared with current operational bomber fleets, and will employ many fifth-generation fighter technologies in their design.”